Novak Djokovic dismissed the dream of an Australian Open record-setter with his Thursday semi-final defeat of qualifier Asian Karatsev.
The eight-time Melbourne champion from Serbia hammered the No. 114 outsider 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to end the run of the Russian who came out of nowhere as he competed in the first Grand Slam main draw of his career.
Along the way Karatsev upset seeds Diego Schwartzman (eighth), Felix Auger-Aliassime (20th) and Grigor Dimitrov (18th).
Djokovic has limped through his title defence over the fortnight.
Less than a week ago he all but claimed he would not be able to play on due to what he called an abdominal tear, which was never officially confirmed.
But since last Friday’s dramatic outburst, he has continued to advance with relative ease in search of an 18th trophy at the majors.
He will test himself on Sunday against the winner from Friday’s semi between No. 4 Daniil Medvedev and fifth seed Stefanot Tsitsipas, who came from two sets to love down to beat Rafael Nadal in the quarters.
The world No. 1 has now won all nine of his Melbourne semi-finals and 13 of the last 14 at the Slams.
Djokovic’s lone defeat came at 2019 Roland Garros against Dominic Thiem.
After winning the opening set, Djokovic stretched his second-set lead to 5-2.
But that’s exactly when Karatsev moved into action, fighting back to 4-5 and saving a pair of set points before Djokovic finally escaped with the set.
The top seed broke to start the third set, but lost it in the fourth game as Karatsev struck back only to lose serve again, 3-4.
The Russian hopeful drove a forehand wide to trail 2-5, with Djokovic claiming victory a game later after less than two hours, finishing with his 17th ace.